Looking from the outside in, it would seem UK DJ Ben Sterling has had the kind of career that most aspiring artists can only dream of. Despite his youth, Sterling has seen break after break go his way, leading to international recognition. But his charmed status does not illude him. His recent project tells the overarching story of his professional life: respect what comes before and pay it forward.
Sterling has released with some of the most respected labels in the world, including Edible, Origin Rcords, and Hottrax. Yet, he's in the process of launching his imprint, Planet X.
"I wanted to create a new platform for the young eyes," said Sterling. "There's a lot of new music coming about everywhere… and I just feel like not many labels pick up on it."
Planet X has its roots in Sterling's passions, connecting to a long-time love for science fiction. The correlation between the synthetic sounds associated with sci-fi entertainment and dance music is not lost on him.
"For instance, the Dr. Who theme song… that was the first created, synthetic track… and it was just such an influence," he explained.
"I wanted to create something fun, and I thought [the name] Planet X just to be out of this world and having the feeling of listening to stuff that's kind of a bit different." He also will have a sister label called The X Files, which he said will be for "deeper" material and "hidden secrets," while Planet X remains "fun" and "energetic."
Sterling chose the letter "X" to anchor his label because of a Duck Doggers episode of Looney Toons where the classic animated characters go to Planet X. For The X Files, he liked the idea of searching through files to find hidden gems.
Every decision connects strongly to something from his past and the collective past of music. Even the color palette from the label is personal, with purple representing his birthstone, Amethyst.
He's working on an EP for his label now, which will likely drop at the end of February. "I'm gonna push the hell out of it and make it look…" and Sterling gestured with his hands, symbolizing an explosion.
His career trajectory has been something of an explosion. The success came, though, through years of what Sterling dubs "crafting," a term that he uses to describe making sure he was everywhere.
"Every single party... especially in London, there's a lot of parties going on every single weekend… going to all the clubs and just mingling with all the great DJs and people… just trying to get [my] foot in the door." He also worked a part-time job while networking his way into the industry to keep him afloat while he steadily devoted his free time to improving his art and getting exposure.
A residency at London's Ministry of Sound got him started when he was only 18. He released the record "Ciao," which impressed UK legend Jamie Jones so much that he played seven of Sterling's unreleased tracks in his EDC Las Vegas set in 2018.
"I thought that was it," said Sterling, "I thought, he's played my track, 'thank you so much, that's enough, thank you.' And suddenly… after that it was just constant, it just spiraled into a snowball, and just everyone started playing it."
Sterling's unique blend of historical music trends started with his parents. "So my dad was very much into electropop," he explained, "And then my mum was very into Balearic, Ibiza, and it kind of just merged together… and I was born."
"There were just so many influences happening at once." As a result, sterling never listened to what was trending on the charts, sticking instead to the eclectic blend his parents introduced to him. He found further inspiration in a documentary on the history of house music Pump up the Volume.
"It is very important in the industry to know where everything comes from," Sterling said. "Having the kind of knowledge on what makes house, what makes tech house, what makes acid house what it is today… is so important." He said that by exploring history, artists evolve their sound and discover new sources of inspiration.
"I still want to make it cool, fun and kind of maturic… that's not even a word, but I just made it up," Sterling laughed. The invention of a word that somehow perfectly sums up the collective of style and talent that has informed Ben Sterling's young but varied career, bringing together old and new, infusing what was with what is. Keep an eye on the maturic DJ Ben Sterling.
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